The Many Tigers are a football team in transition, and it’s not easy.
The toughest challenge is keeping faith in the process, when all the players on this team have known previously is success, says new coach Dillon Barrett.
Many’s been a state powerhouse for the last decade, but in two preseason outings the Tigers have been on the other side. Jasper (Texas) handled Many convincingly in a scrimmage, and last Saturday night in West Monroe at the Bayou Jamb, Oak Grove blasted MHS 41-7.
Now the TIgers open the regular season Friday night at 7 in Moss Bluff, playing Sam Houston, a Class 5A school. The game will be broadcast on 99.9 KTEZ FM. The Broncos also have dropped their two outings, both to Class 3A power Iowa, 9-7 and 7-6.
Barrett says Many doesn’t lack for talent, although there were major graduation losses from last year’s state champion team. It’s just a big adjustment to a new coaching style and a vastly-different offensive scheme, a shift to the spread and much more passing than the Tigers have tried in past seasons combined.
“Learning the scheme, any new scheme, is a process. We have to continue to fix the little things. All these things that went wrong, that weren’t done right, kept piling up and it ended up a big mess,” said Barrett in the wake of the Oak Grove contest.
“We’ve got to go into Week 1 with the right mentality,” he said. “Playing Sam Houston there, we’ve got to get to work. Playing on (last) Saturday makes it a short week going into Friday night, and that makes it tougher.”
Barrett believes his team will grow stronger working through the challenges and adversity, with the ultimate goal to have a successful season and advance into the playoffs. Players have to show toughness that in some respects hasn’t been challenged in the recent past while Many mowed down opponent after opponent in previous seasons, and didn’t often have to bounce back from a loss or a frustrating stretch.
The Tigers know how to win, and have the talent needed. But just as adults change jobs and encounter new bosses and new ways of doing things, this Many team is going through a life lesson on dealing with change and challenges that accompany it. Self-belief is vital at this stage with teenagers, athletes or not, and Barrett believes that fan support for the boys is also critical in tough times.
Last Saturday’s game had highlights. Running back Jeremiah Jones found room to run and broke several big gainers, one on the opening drive that got the Tigers into the Oak Grove red zone. He finished the drive with a touchdown run inside the 10.
Jones was named the Many Player of the Game by Bayou Jamb officials, while Tylen Singleton and other Tigers made good accounts of themselves.
But Oak Grove, which opens the season ranked a close second in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Class 2A Top 10 poll, caught fire and overwhelmed Many after the opening drive.
Oak Grove got 116 points in the LSWA poll released Monday, just three shy of Calvary Baptist in the No. 1 spot. Many drew 100 points and opens the season at No. 4 in the rankings.